Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Coconut Layer Cake

Coconut layer cake made with fresh coconut.
I almost never get the urge to make desserts. I don't have much of a sweet tooth--I would take good cheese or something fatty-salty over baked goods any day. Also--baking is hard. I'm comfortable improvising bread--but to make cakes or cookies, you have to actually follow a recipe--not something I tend to do.

But Adam and I were skiing the other day, and, seeing as it was a powder day and one of our longstanding nuptial agreements is that he doesn't have to ski with me on powder days--I ended up skiing alone for a few hours. AND ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS BAKING A CAKE. It was so strange. I became fixated on the memory of an article I read a couple years ago about traditional Southern layer cakes. I was fascinated at the time, so I read a few more articles and watched some Youtube videos. But I never got around to baking anything--it was just aimless curiosity. But that day at Steamboat--I had to bake a cake.
In particular, I kept remembering the coconut cake made with fresh grated coconut. The descriptions of these were so intriguing--the way they need to sit in the fridge so the coconut could soak into the frosting and cake. Also--I'd seen frozen fresh coconut at my favorite Asian grocery store, sold (according to the package) for making Filipino desserts and drinks.

So we got back to Denver, and I immediately went and bought the ingredients, then baked this big, beautiful so-coconut-y cake. 

And it was so fun and pleasurable, spending the afternoon baking a cake. I dripped frosting and flour on both of the dogs. 


  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut 
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shaved fresh coconut
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and sweetened cream of coconut in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients and then buttermilk, each just until blended.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites with pinch of salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold beaten egg whites into batter.
Divide cake batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.
Place 1 cake layer on cake plate. Spread 1 cup Cream Cheese Frosting over cake layer. Sprinkle 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut over. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle remaining coconut over cake, gently pressing into sides to adhere. (Coconut Layer Cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before serving.)


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut or coconut milk
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract\
  • pinch sal


Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until fluffy. Add butter and beat to blend. Add sugar, sweetened cream of coconut and vanilla extract and beat until well blended.

Frost the cooled cake with the cream cheese frosting, and decorate with toasted flaked coconut. Let sit in the fridge, frosted, for at least 2 hours, then come to room temperature for another hour before serving.

I don't think I'm likely to become a regular baker--but this cake was SO DELICIOUS. I've always loved fresh coconut and this cake was bursting with fresh coconut flavor. 

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